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My 48th Birthday

July 13, 2017

For my last several birthdays I threw myself wonderfully, self-indulgent parties at Pamplona’s in Lafayette. This year I was in Newberg and knew no one. I’m sure my daughter would have made an effort with a cake and maybe dinner out, but it wouldn’t have been the same as having the whole bar filled with friends, laughing and drinking and later dancing at the Moon.

So I was happy that I had Mr. Canada in my life instead.

The weeks that preceded my big 48, Mr. Canada came up with itineraries and menus. Oysters, of course. Lamb and hummus. And a cheesecake birthday cake.

I got there just after midnight on the 28th. That morning, he put 48 candles on the cake and sang to me as I blew them out. I had my first slice with my coffee. The next six days seemed to fly by. There were oysters and beer on Wednesday and shopping with his friend Ray the next day for a dinner the following night.

We watched fireworks on Canada Day from North Vancouver in a condo Ray and N were renting. Mr. Canada talks about Ray and N often and I was anxious to meet them. Ray likes to cook and the two of them discuss food and try to outdo each other. I found Ray a bit pretentious at first and both of them were not what I was expecting. Ray, a caucasian man had long dreadlocks. I was surprised Mr. Canada hadn’t brought this up before. It seemed like just the kind of thing he would make fun of. “Oh, I give him hell about that as often as possible,” he explained.

N looked much older than Ray, though I don’t think the age difference was much more than between Mr. Canada and I. She was Indian from South Africa, neither of which Mr. Canada mentioned. I suppose he doesn’t paint a very visual picture when describing his friends. He met N on a dating site, which I also found odd, since she was with Ray at the time. She claimed she was on it solely to meet new people.

“That’s an interesting way to make new friends,” I said.

“That’s what I said,” Ray replied.

N showed me her craft projects and we got to know each other a bit. I told them the story of Mr. Canada’s visit to Lafayette and how he had ended up cooking for everyone at Larry’s house and the wine coming out of the fridge.

After the fireworks, N retired to her craft table, which was a bit odd and Ray and Mr. Canada delved into one of Mr. Canada’s classic discussions in which he takes one side of an argument just for kicks. I was a bit peeved with myself when I listened to Ray present my side of the argument with an elegance and patience that actually convinced Mr. C where I had failed to many times. He’s a smart guy, I’ll give him that.

Having consumed three glasses of wine, I was pooped, so I sat on the couch and put my head on a pillow until Mr. Canada was ready to go home.

Sunday we went whale watching. They made us put on big, puffy suits that seemed like overkill in the morning heat, until we were over the bay in the cold wind and spray. We saw a pod of orcas frolicking about. I got a few good photos of some fluke splashing and breaches. There was a young girl with a rented 500mm lens. It was fun watching her try to catch the action. I’m sure she got much better shots than I did. Sometimes, I just put my camera down and watched the action. I wasn’t working or shooting for anyone after all and I wanted to enjoy it. The guide said she had never seen them so active before.

We both had a great time on that little day trip. It was one of the best birthday presents I’ve ever received.

The whale watching company’s office was across from The Lobster Man on Granville Island, where we get our oysters. We were about to walk back to the car when Mr. Canada said, “Let’s just go see if he has any of the royal miyagi’s today.”

“Why? Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” I asked.

“Well….you know…..I mean…..let’s just go check it out,” he teased.

They did have some for $9.95 a dozen, as usual.

“Well,” I asked him. “What do you want to do?”

“What do you want to do?” he asked.

“What we are talking about here? A snack, like a couple of dozen or are we going all out again?”

“I don’t know,” he said teasingly.

“Well, I’d be willing to put in for a couple of dozen.” I said.

“So will I,” he said in his weird, goofy Mr. Canada way.

We laughed at ourselves and he proceeded to pick out four dozen oysters for our second oyster feast.

The first time we ever got oysters there, we were helped by what seemed like a very ornery, unfriendly man. He didn’t smile, even when Mr. Canada prodded him and he slowly counted each oyster with precision. The next couple of times, there had been a friendly young woman who didn’t even bother counting but gave us our bags on the honor system.

This time it was the young man again. As he looked over each oyster carefully, he knocked them together and listened to the sound, tossing a few out, declaring that them to be “bad.” Mr. Canada went back for replacements as the family behind us waited patiently for their turn. I was glad he was helping us this time. What seemed like detachment before was good care now.

Back in his apartment, Mr. Canada presented me with the shucked oysters on ice and I used some of the juice from the ceviche he made before as a garnish. They were, as always delightful. When there was nothing but empty shells, I sat back with satisfaction.

“What if I told you there was more.” Mr. Canada said.

“What? Really?” I exclaimed.

“Yeah, I only shucked half of them,” he said laughing.

“Oh yay,” I said. “What a wonderful surprise.”

And we ate more oysters.

One day, I don’t remember which, I had a mild, little depression attack. I wanted to go explore Hastings Street. But every time I expressed this desire, Mr. Canada asked me, “What part? What do you want to see?”

I didn’t know what I wanted to see. I just knew every time we drove down that street there was so many weird and interesting places. I just wanted to explore.

“I know. I’ll take you to Gastown,” he said. I didn’t understand why we couldn’t go to Hastings. But I went along.

We parked a good bit away and walked to a very busy, touristy part of Vancouver with lots of bars, restaurants and high end shops. I could feel myself dipping into a slump. We saw a bar with games inside. I offered to play battleship with him. But when we got a table and found the game, it was missing all the pieces. I would have stayed but for some reason, Mr. Canada got up to leave, saying there was no reason to stay if we weren’t playing a game. So, we walked around some more until I finally admitted I wasn’t feeling well and asked him to take me home.

He was, as always accommodating and very understanding. He asked me lots of questions about how I was feeling but all I could say was, “I just need to lay down and be quiet for a while.” When we got back, I took my clothes off, put the Interstellar soundtrack in my ear and lay down on his bed. I was soon joined by his cat, Pixie who seemed to know that I needed comforting.

I fell asleep for a while and woke up to find him in the kitchen preparing dinner. I got up and gave him a hug and I felt better.

Monday, we did go to Hastings street and wondered around the weird little restaurants and thrift stores. We found one place, Burcu’s Angels that was like walking into a couture museum. Heavy, luxurious fabrics filled the racks of vintage 50s and 60s fashion. It was beautiful. I was entranced by every gown, jacket and after-dinner wear. Everything was expensive, of course but so lovely. The owner had Turkish music playing and was very chatty, encouraging both of us to try things on. I could have spent thousands there. Mr. Canada struck up a long conversation with the owner, as he is wont to do. He did the same thing in New Orleans when we first met, finding a Canadian in the French Quarter at a hat shop.

“See, that’s why I wanted to come here.” I said. “To see stuff like that.”

I was supposed to drive home Monday night to avoid fourth of July traffic but that afternoon, my stomach began to hurt. The cramps increased until I experienced a nice bout of diarrhea. I claimed it was the hot sauce Mr. Canada had put in the ceviche, remembering the time I got sick in Indonesia after eagerly eating everything in sight.

However, it was the cheesecake. We left it out for a few hours when I first arrived and found the crust to be a little soggy. Mr. Canada had insisted right then that we through it out but I had only had one piece. He pointed to a patch of discoloration on the top. “That’s just from the candles,” I claimed.

“It’s mold,” he said, reminding me that he was a professionally trained chef.

“You wouldn’t throw out a whole loaf of bread because of mold on one end, would you?” I argued.

“It’s dairy!” he insisted.

“You are not throwing away my cheesecake,” I said placing my body between him and the cake. I put it in the refrigerator and ate on that thing for the next five days before finally allowing him to throw away the last small portion.

He was right. It had spoiled and I was paying for it.

I decided to spend another night and hoping I would feel better in the morning. As I squeezed his arm every time my stomach cramped up, he scolded me for not listening to him. “It was worth every bite,” I said.

I left the morning of the 4th, kissing him goodbye outside his apartment not knowing when we would see each other again. It’s getting harder being away from him. We need to be in the same city. I want to know what it would be like to see other regularly like a real couple. This once a month nonsense is bullshit.

But…..it was a great birthday and I was so happy and grateful to be with someone who wanted to celebrate and make a big deal out of it.

He did good.

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